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‘Monsieur Milbert has the disposition and the unmistakeable uniform of any French gardener. He is invariably clad in tall rubber boots, indigo blue worker’s pants bought down at the market in the stall next to the cheese woman, a ragged scarf tied about his neck, and a hand-rolled cigarette clenched between his lips.

He talks in a low mumble, and the cigarette waves up and down, moving with his words like an expression on his face. He works alone, accompanied occasionally by Madame’s dog, ratty little Puce, who jingles behind him with a tiny bell tied around her neck.

He is grumpy and coarse and all the things I was warned about. He takes his contest with nature very seriously and finds no comfort in its unpredictable forces. Like most gardeners, he never vacations. In winter when all is quiet and still, he would much rather spend his time fretting – about the fruit trees budding, about the relentless spring frosts that may or may not come, about the sun and the moon.

Gardeners, I discovered, are tough: content to be grim.

– from The Cook and the Gardener, by Amanda Hesser, the story of an American cook in a French garden, currently keeping me amused and inspired while the snow lies thick upon the ground.

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